Donna-Lee Smith’s fitness journey isn’t about her heaviest weight; it was when she reached her lowest weight that she knew things had to change. Donna-Lee developed anorexia when she was 17, and she carried only 79 pounds on her five-feet-one frame. “I was made up of skin and bone even before my anorexia transitioned into bulimia,” she admits. “My body fat was irrelevant, as I had little to none.”
Donna-Lee was an athlete in her teens, doing gymnastics, long-distance running, horseback riding, and weightlifting. “But my goal wasn’t to be more athletic,” she says. “At 17, my quest was to be the thinnest I could be.”
THE COURAGE TO SEEK HELP
In time, Donna-Lee sought out a psychologist to help with her mental health and her eating disorder. “I don’t recall the exact moment I made that choice,” she says. “I just remember being tired of the daily binge-andpurge battle.”
After seeing a psychologist and staying in a long-term rehabilitation centre, Donna-Lee gradually gained weight until she reached 99 pounds. She maintained this weight for most of her adult life, until she decided to get on stage and compete in a figure competition in 2005.
She spent six weeks bringing her weight up to 112 pounds at 10 percent body fat. “I was a keen, lean, gym machine, that’s for certain,” she recalls. But the results of her hard work were short lived. After her competition, her eating began to spiral due to some unforeseen events in her life.
Now, Donna-Lee recognizes that time as a temporary setback. She often thinks of some wisdom her therapist shared with her: “You can’t have an eating disorder and a life too.” With those words in mind, she vowed to forge ahead and stop letting her eating disorder take over her life.
She decided to hire a personal trainer, and she put her faith in a new workout plan and eating regimen. “I also sought time to reach out to a psychologist who taught me about embracing and cherishing my sense of self,” Donna-Lee says. “I was determined to look and feel the best I could.”
She fell in love with her gym and the community there, and she worked her way back up to a healthy weight. “I’m shredded and prouder than ever at 15 percent body fat!” she declares.
DONNA-LEE AT A GLANCE
FAVE HEALTHY SNACKRoasted almonds
SPLURGE FOODPopcorn with lots of browned butter
EASY MEALGreek salad and salmon with sundried tomatoes and oregano
MANTRAYou eat it, you own it!
MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT
Donna-Lee credits much of her transformation to a healthy, clean-eating plan that she can enjoy and trust. “Exercise was always part of my life,” she says. “The biggest change was simply to eat and digest my food. At the beginning of my journey, my emotions were very unstable. I felt crazy most of the time. Today, I feel calm, grounded, and emotionally balanced.”
Now, Donna-Lee considers her mind, body, and spirit to be strong. She carries herself with confidence and she has plenty of determination to keep it that way. “I strive to feel fabulous now and forever,” she tells us.
For anyone who has an eating disorder and wants to make a long-lasting change, Donna-Lee recommends seeking professional help. “Let go of negative thoughts,” she adds. “Love yourself, be kind to yourself, and do not compare yourself to others.
PHOTOS BY TERRY WALKER (@TERRY_WALKER_PHOT GRAPHY)